As an avid consumer of anything breakfast, I was disappointed when John’s Country Restaurant closed on Central Avenue. Within the last year though, a renaissance has taken place. Slowly, what was once John’s was being converted to what will open up today at 11 a.m: Coaltrane’s Char & Grill. 

[Related: Coaltrane’s Char & Grill in Plaza Midwood is expected to open in less than 3 weeks.]

Michael Libretto

Michael Libretto, of Libretto’s Pizza, took over the property in late 2016 and decided to expand his Coaltrane’s brand. This will be Libretto’s second Coaltrane’s location — the first is at the ground level of the EpiCentre.

“I always had an eye on this location,” Libretto said. “It’s a corner store at the end of a strip mall with a lot of parking next to it. When my name was on the (construction) permit in the front window, (locals) were up in arms thinking another pizza joint was coming in, but it was always going to be a Coaltrane’s.”

The location

The building itself was constructed in the 1920s. During the remodel, some elements of those long ago days were revealed. Originally, this space was occupied by a Dr. HC Taylor, whose business hours are still faintly posted above the staircase leading to the second level.

Libretto made sure to keep as much of the existing exposed brick interior as possible. Once a full two-story building, the second floor was ripped up and halved, giving the space the feel of a New Orleans French Quarter loft apartment.

In fact, the second floor was actually once used as a living space. The wall frames separating rooms were kept as an ode to yesteryear.

The restaurant will have space for 69 patrons, with around 20 upstairs seats and an outdoor patio that will house a small bar. Plans are underway to allow for the upstairs area to be used as event space. Plans are also in the works to either enclose the outdoor patio or simply add heaters during the winter months.

Let’s get to the food, already

If you’re coming for the building, you’re staying for the food. Coaltrane’s specializes in rotisserie chicken.

“Our chicken is sourced locally, from Dillion, SC,” Libretto said. “They’re antibiotic and hormone free. Nothing here is fried, we have no fryers. We’re trying to do a healthy take on South American rotisserie.”

The Plaza Midwood menu is largely the same as uptown, with its focus on rotisserie chicken, but with a few fun additions like a Green Goddess salad. Other items include sandwiches, char-grilled platters, chicken soup and stuffed avocado.

The drinks

This being Plaza Midwood, local beers will be featured. Selections from Legion, NoDa, Birdsong and Catawba Brewing will be available on a rotating basis. As will a few out-of-state brands, including one near and dear to Managing Partner Justin Anthony’s heart.

Anthony has brought in a selection from Dog Tag Brewing out of Bozeman, Mont.

“Every one of their cans recognizes a fallen soldier. They do a lot of good stuff for vets,” said Anthony, who served in the Marines. 

Coaltrane’s will also carry a wine selection, including varieties from Chile and Italy.

What else?

Plans include a foray into the Plaza Midwood brunch scene.

“Getting to know the neighborhood over the past year, there’s a great charm here,” Libretto said. “We want to keep this space in tune with that charm.”

Coaltrane’s, at 1516 Central Ave., is open Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. on Friday at Saturday.

Photos: Jonathan Lee

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